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Germany’s digital health efforts are failing. Is a Lauterbach strategy the ticket?

Updated: May 26, 2022

Germany may be known for its efficiency, but that's not true when it comes to the digitalization of its health system.

Since 2019, Germany has introduced three major new digital health laws covering everything from electronic patient records to the digitalization of its hospitals. But in hospitals and GP rooms, significant progress is something of an enigma.

While the pandemic helped crystalize the importance of digital tools such as virtual consultations, in many areas, Germany is years behind others in the bloc. Around 95 percent of communication between outpatient doctors and hospitals is still paper-based; patients aren’t even using their electronic health records; and only around two dozen digital health apps have been approved, according to a report from McKinsey.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach knows change has been glacial — he was one of the initiators of a proposal to create an electronic patient file at a meeting at a Berlin hotel. That was 20 years ago.

Speaking at the country’s annual digital health fair in April, Lauterbach said he would “never have imagined” that 20 years on, he would be standing before an audience with the electronic patient file still not fully introduced. “That thought would have blown my mind,” he said.


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